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  Catholic Officials Revoke Powers of Parish Founder
Diocese Cites Sex Abuse Allegations

By Brooks Egerton
Dallas Morning News
July 12, 1997

Dallas Catholic officials revoked the priestly powers of the Rev. Patrick Lynch on Friday, saying the founding father of St. Joseph parish had refused to cooperate with their investigation of child molestation accusations.

The extraordinary move came days after The Dallas Morning News documented a 1966 sexual misconduct report on the retired cleric and people came forward with allegations of more recent abuse.

Monsignor John Bell, the diocese's chancellor and judicial vicar, urged members of the Richardson church to be "prudent" in dealing with Mr. Lynch.

He asked that congregation members "notify us of his whereabouts" if they see him. "We want to talk to him."

Mr. Lynch, who left St. Joseph in early 1995 after being quietly confronted with the three-decade-old molestation allegations, has not returned telephone messages this week to residences in England and Ireland. He has been spending time there recently and in the Richardson area, where he apparently registered a car last month to St. Joseph's address.

Church officials say that Mr. Lynch denied abusing a man who came forward to allege abuse as a boy in the mid-1960s. But that claim - which the diocese settled by paying for the man's counseling - led to further revelations and developments the officials call suspicious.

First, they say, they discovered a brief 1966 memo in Mr. Lynch's personnel file that said he'd been reported for "becoming sexually involved with a student while stationed at St. Pius X Church, Dallas, Texas. This should be kept confidential . . . "

That prompted a medical evaluation, which turned up some heart trouble that allowed Mr. Lynch to take early retirement. He did not cooperate in evaluation or treatment for possible pedophilia, Monsignor Bell said.

In a letter to the St. Joseph congregation, Mr. Lynch said he was simply taking time off to recover from the heart condition. And he said that the problem had been detected in a routine checkup.

Another man came forward last year to allege abuse in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when he was a teenage parishioner at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Richardson and Mr. Lynch was an assistant pastor there.

Monsignor Glenn "Duffy" Gardner, the diocese's vicar general, told Mr. Lynch of the allegations in a December 1996 letter. He wrote that this second complainant, Michael Garren , would be paid for counseling and that his "claims seem to be genuine."

Mr. Garren, Monsignor Gardner added, wanted to meet with Mr. Lynch, wanted him to get therapy and wanted him to name other abuse victims, "thereby facilitating our assistance for those others who are in need of counseling."

Mr. Lynch has not responded to the letter, Monsignor Gardner said, and "that makes me very suspicious."

Until Friday, diocesan lawyer Randal Mathis had said he recalled only the first alleged victim. Then Mr. Garren gave The News a copy of the letter to Mr. Lynch, which the attorney and Monsignor Gardner confirmed was authentic.

In retirement, Mr. Lynch had remained free to serve as a priest.

He will keep his retirement pay but, effective immediately, "won't be able to celebrate the sacraments," Monsignor Gardner said.

Mr. Lynch can appeal his suspension, which could result in a church trial, Monsignor Bell said. Technically, he will remain a priest unless he requests being reduced to a lay state, known as laicization. The diocese can also seek forced laicization under canon law.

Meanwhile, the diocese will alert the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and a parallel governing body for Great Britain and Ireland that Mr. Lynch should not be allowed to work as a priest.

Mr. Garren, 44, hailed the move as a possible breakthrough.

"I am delighted that the diocese has acknowledged the problems with Lynch, and I hope that they will continue to be as forthcoming in the future," he said. "Maybe this will set a precedent so the healing can begin."

Stephen Tomac, 27, who came forward this week to say that Mr. Lynch had abused him for months in 1981, said the suspension fulfilled "my hope from the beginning" - that the priest would lose the power and cover that let him get away with abuse.

Monsignor Gardner confirmed the suspension after recess of a civil trial in which the diocese is fighting accusations that it covered up years of abuse by another priest, Rudolph "Rudy" Kos.

Mr. Kos - the only other area priest suspended for misconduct in recent memory - didn't contest the suit and has already been judged liable.

No civil or criminal charges are pending locally against Mr. Lynch or another priest, the Rev. Richard Brown, who was allowed to continue serving after being accused of molestation.

Father Brown, who hasn't returned repeated messages, was forced out as pastor of Our Lady of the Lake in Rockwall in 1994 after abuse allegations surfaced from 1981. He underwent therapy and now works in adults-only, nonparish ministries in Detroit and New York, Mr. Mathis has said.

The attorney has said that all the cases are different and should be considered individually.

Sylvia Demarest, who represents some of the Kos plaintiffs and Mr. Garren, has argued in the Kos trial that the diocese has a long history of hiding scandal.

"I am glad to see that the diocese has finally stepped up to the plate and taken action" on Mr. Lynch, she said. "My only regret is that it didn't happen 30 years ago."

 
 

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